How to Overcome Procrastination with the 3D Approach

How to overcome procrastination is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. The problem is that when the task is unpleasant, uninteresting, and insurmountable....procrastination can seem pretty natural. The 3D approach stops procrastination by building a success spiral of accomplishment

The 3D approach involves three steps:

  1. Dividing larger tasks down into smaller more manageable chunks.
  2. Dig in 
  3. Dally a moment to refresh yourself for the next push.

1. How to overcome procrastination through the divide and conquer strategy

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Mark Twain

You have probably heard of the saying "How do you eat an elephant?"...."One bite at a time".

I remember my elephant project was writing my PhD. I was procrastinating on the task – I knew I should write it but there was always something more pressing (or more interesting!).

When I reflected on why I was procrastinating….I realised that I saw my task as insurmountable. Elephantine in fact!

So how did I get started and finish my PhD. I layed out the entirety of the project and broke the project down into manageable chunks.

Why does the divide and conquer strategy work for overcoming procrastination?

Well you know the old saying that 'success breeds success'.

When you achieve success in small chunks it builds your confidence and motivation to keep on going. 

Even some recent research by Ken Sheldon out of the University of Missouri says that if we move towards a goal we feel happier. I certainly felt happier writing my first draft of chapter 1!

What is your elephant? What are you procrastinating on because it feels insurmountable?

Is it the tough project? Maybe it is the the exercise program, or the decision that you are putting off about retirement savings. 

Procrastination activity: Divide and conquer

1. Grab a pen and paper

2. Pick a task or goal that you are procrastinating on – one that is really bothering you.

3. Write down as many sub-tasks as possible to get the job done. 

Now when you have completed writing all the sub-tasks order them in sequence so that you complete them one after the other.

Now you may still not know which task to do or how to order them…that is OK…just pick a task and start.

You may dilly dally around a bit but once you get started you will crank into higher gear. 

Be careful here – as once you have created a bunch of subtasks you may feel the urge to stop – and use this is just another reason to procrastinate.  

But the goal here is to start! 

2. Dig in to overcome procrastination

Start off using the Pomodoro technique. With practice you can find that your session can be increased little by little until you can stay on task with the best of them.

The end game is to get a bite size chunk under 2 hours. If it is more then look for another subtask. 


Because the prefrontal cortex gets tired after this focus time and is looking to switch tasks. So keep your bites small or in the adage ‘don’t bite of more than you can chew.

Procrastination tip

Try to put these bite size chunks into your calendar. Remember a to do list is just a list – it may not initiate action. By putting time bounds on the specific task and creating a space in the calendar you are making a stronger commitment to yourself to do it

3. Dally around a bit

Don't forget to reward yourself for getting starting. Rewards reinforce the great start that you have made and push you to keep going.

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